From left: Theresa Greenfield and U.S. Senator Joni Ernst
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U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, starts her general election campaign trailing her Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield in three separate polls. 

Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat is considered a toss-up, Ernst’s favorability rating is in decline, and the first-term incumbent is exceptionally vulnerable. 

Liberal organizations commissioned the first two polls conducted after the June 2 primary, so it’s easy to take them with a grain of salt. Still, the Des Moines Register poll confirmed their results, so it would be foolish to dismiss them.

Let’s take a look at what the first three general election polls reveal:

Emily’s List/Public Policy Polling – Greenfield Leads by Two

Greenfield leads Ernst 45 percent to 43 percent, with just 12 percent undecided. 

Emily’s List commissioned this poll through Public Policy Polling (PPP), a Democratic polling firm. PPP surveyed 963 Iowa voters on June 3-4, 2020. We don’t know if they were registered voters or likely voters, it makes a difference. We do know that of those responding, 53 percent are female, and 47 percent are male. Also, PPP says that those polled 35 percent are Republicans, 35 percent are Democrats, and 30 percent are independent. 

A critical factor in this poll, PPP asked how those polled voted in 2016, 50 percent said they voted for Donald Trump, while 41 percent said they voted for Hillary Clinton, and 9 percent said they voted for someone else or did not vote. 

In terms of age, 11 percent are in the 18-29 age bracket, 22 percent are in the 30 to 45 age bracket, 38 percent are in the 46 to 65 age bracket, and 28 percent are older than 65. 

This poll reveals that Ernst is underwater in her approval rating – 45 percent disapprove of her job performance while only 38 percent approve. Her favorability rating mirrors her approval rating. Conversely, Greenfield’s approval rating among those who have an opinion is more positive than negative. Among those polled, 36 percent have a favorable view of Greenfield, while 23 percent viewed her unfavorably. 

In regards to her handling of the economy, 39 percent disapprove while 35 percent approved. 

Ernst only has a favorability rating of 70 percent and an approval rating of 68 percent among those who voted for Trump in 2016. That’s remarkably low. Only 76 percent of those who said they voted for Trump said they planned to support Ernst, while 11 percent said they planned to vote for Greenfield. Among those who voted for Clinton, 84 percent said they would vote for Greenfield while only 7 percent said they would vote for Ernst. Among those who did not vote or who voted third party, Greenfield leads 59 percent to 22 percent. 

Despite being a woman, Ernst has a problem among women voters. Among women polled, 49 percent had an unfavorable view of Ernst compared to 31 percent who viewed her favorably. Also, 48 percent of women disapproved of her job performance while only 31 percent approved. So it’s not surprising that Greenfield leads Ernst among women – 51 percent to 36 percent. 

Conversely, Ernst leads Greenfield 50 percent to 39 percent among the men who were polled. 

Among Republicans polled, 81 percent said they would vote for Ernst while nine percent said they would vote for Greenfield. Among Democrats, 83 percent said they would vote for Greenfield, and ten percent said they would vote for Ernst. Greenfield leads Ernst among independents – 43 percent to 37 percent. 

Civiqs/Daily Kos – Greenfield Leads by Three

Daily Kos, a far-left publication, commissioned a poll by Civiqs of 865 registered voters in Iowa. The survey, conducted on June 6-8, 2020, found Greenfield leads Ernst 48 percent to 45 percent. The margin of error is +/-3.7 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. 

A critical factor with this poll is that they surveyed registered voters instead of likely voters. That fact alone skews the poll somewhat. Another item of interest is that they asked voters who they voted for Governor in 2018. Among those polled, 45 percent said they voted for Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican, while 42 percent said they voted for the Democrat challenger Fred Hubbell.

Like the PPP poll, Civiqs polled more women (52 percent) than men (48 percent). Unlike the PPP poll, they surveyed more Republicans (36 percent)than Democrats and independents (32 percent).

According to the poll, 52 percent hold an unfavorable view of Ernst, while 39 percent view her favorably. Conversely, 39 percent hold a favorable view of Greenfield, while 31 percent view her unfavorably. 

Looking at the crosstabs, Greenfield leads Ernst among independents 52 percent to 35 percent. She also leads the incumbent U.S. Senator among women – 56 percent to 37 percent. Ernst leads Greenfield among men – 55 percent to 39 percent. 

Greenfield leads among voters under the age of 50, while Ernst leads among those 50 or older. 

Des Moines Register/Mediacom Poll – Greenfield Leads by Three

In the Iowa Poll conducted by Selzer & Co, Greenfield leads Ernst 46 percent to 43 percent in a poll conducted on June 7-10, 2020. The poll sample consisted of 674 likely voters in November’s general election for a margin of error of +/-3.8 percent. 

According to the Iowa Poll, Ernst’s approval rating is 49 percent, with 39 percent who say they disapprove. While her approval rating is still down compared to the 57 percent approval rating from one year ago, it is not underwater, unlike the first two polls mentioned.

She earns 67 percent of the evangelical vote compared to Greenfield’s 22 percent. She also leads among rural voters (56 percent to 32 percent) and men (53 percent to 37 percent). According to this poll, Greenfield has a massive lead among those with no religious affiliation (71 percent to 19 percent) and a significant lead among women (54 percent to 34 percent). Ernst leads among Iowans between the ages of 35 and 54, and Greenfield leads among voters younger than 35 and 65 and older. 

What does this mean? 

It is important to remember that these polls are a snapshot of early June. Democrats have spent the better part of a year defining Ernst and have spent a lot of money in the race. 

While a lot of the Republican focus was on Greenfield, they couldn’t solely focus on her. Now that she is the nominee, Republicans can begin to define her. We have seen that effort underway as Republicans have pointed out troubling aspects to Greenfield’s record as a business owner. 

Greenfield has primarily been campaigning behind the scenes, that will change as Election Day draws near.  

How Ernst approaches Trump is complicated. If she appears to be unsupportive, that will hurt her among her base, but she can’t let Democrats tie her to every controversial or unpopular thing Trump says as well. 

If I were on the Ernst campaign, I would be concerned by June’s polling, but I would not panic either. Ernst has a huge cash advantage over Greenfield. Thus far, she raised $12,097,948 this cycle, spent over $5.2 million, and has over $7 million in the bank. Greenfield raised just over $7 million, spent $3.2 million, and has over $4.7 million in the bank. 

Outside spending will tick up. In 2020, outside groups spent over $7 million supporting Greenfield while they spent over $1.6 million opposing Ernst. They also spent over $2.6 million opposing Greenfield while spending over $1.6 supporting Ernst.

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